Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ruthann Friedman & The Now People cover The Ruthann Friedman Songbook at Taix Lounge - September 6, 2013

A show of major historical significance took place last Friday night, Sept. 6, when songwriting artist, Ruthann Friedman held a spellbound audience in the palm of her hand to celebrate the long-awaited, long-in-the-making release of a collection of her original recordings of the 1960s, Windy: A Ruthann Friedman Songbook. Through the tireless and persuasive efforts of producer Steve Stanley, this record was able to come to fruition despite the reluctance of Ruthann to fully appreciate the importance of her own contributions, and the difficult excavation process required to unearth these demo recordings. And how lucky we are to be able to hold this CD in our hands.

She and Steve (in center at right) assembled a band, including members of The Now People, and her frequent recent collaborator, Kaitlin Wolfberg (above at left) on violin and keys, to put a modern spin on a particular 60s pop idiom that ended up sounding both nostalgic yet very much like a lot of the music I enjoy today. It took me back to another time (specifically sitting in my bedroom while in high school listening to Tommy Roe, We Five, The Association, Nancy Sinatra and others around, say, 1966). The music was sunny and upbeat, yet possessed the yearning and the defiant 'quest for something more' that so characterized that era. The feeling was as physical as it was emotional.

There were songs of love, "When You're Near" and I'll Make You Happy", songs of anger and frustration, "Please Please Please", celebrations of joy, filled with a realistic optimism and the hope for change that so characterized that generation, like "Halfway There". My generation. I've tried to keep much of that alive in myself through the decades, somehow. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. It was like a trip through many of the emotions and tribulations I had even forgotten I had, making me feel like I was running into my younger self during the show.

This became nearly overwhelming when Terry Kirkman (behind the mic above) of The Association came on stage to perform the flute part from the song "Windy", confirming that I was indeed in a the time warp. I had all the early albums by The Association, had learned that "Along Comes Mary" was not about a girl named Mary, loved "Cherish" before it was ruined by all those wedding receptions, and even remembered that "Windy" was from their third album.

With the song "Raining Down On My House", Ruthann had one of her musicians play the sitar as this heady and unpredictable song overtook all reason and the audience was lost in a swirling psychedelic acid haze. From a sunny California pop sound, through the songs of a woman's empowerment, with a touch of the Herb Alpert Tijuana sound that influenced so much music in that era, it was truly a program of amazing variety and showed us why Ruthann Friedman is a national treasure.

I don't think I've ever seen Taix Lounge with a larger crowd that I would describe as "standing room only". And what had been a rather noisy room full of diners, suddenly became hushed and attentive. Ruthann told interesting anecdotes about many of the songs and seemed to relax as the evening progressed as she couldn't ignore the extraordinary reaction her set was generating. It's a night that stayed with me for days, and one I will never forget.


1 comment:

Steven Hansen said...

I would love to have seen this show.